Media Complaints Embraced, Defended

The "local papers" were in the crosshairs this week, first at a community group’s gathering and then at the Ocean City Mayor and Council meeting.

This may come as a surprise, but we embrace all feedback, and negative commentaries far outnumber the compliments. However, we also relish the opportunity afforded to us here to defend ourselves in the face of criticism.

First, the most outspoken critics were Tony Christ, founder of the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice group, and Joe Jobson, who owns two Ocean City motels as well as a number of rental properties throughout town. While their backgrounds and reasons for speaking were varied, Christ and Jobson did share at least one belief — the newspapers are not reporting the truth about the state of Ocean City when it comes to business, crowds, socioeconomic issues, crime, government management and political tomfoolery.

Jobson, who was articulate and rational during his comments, said his reason for addressing the Mayor and Council was to simply air his concerns that things are not good in Ocean City. Business is down and the people are not here as they should in his estimation. He said the papers are “not telling the truth” and accurately reflecting the times.

While championing his belief that Ocean City is mired in “destructive governance” at the hands of the current and previous Mayor and Councils, due to chronic overspending, Christ singled out The Dispatch’s Joanne Shriner (whose last name he misidentified several times) and Ocean City Today’s Zach Hoopes. He openly questioned why he had to read The Washington Post to learn what was happening in Ocean City, referencing a recent story that touched on the proposed decency ordinance, June’s spike in violent crime and lower crowd numbers. He then criticized both for not reporting the entire story in specific articles last week and told them neither were invited to his group’s meetings any more.

There was no reason for Christ to grill these reporters in that sort of public forum, accusing them of misrepresenting the facts to a degree, and all it does is undermine his efforts and paints him as unstable and angry. He did later apologize in an email, but the damage was already done.

To not address the common theme among Jobson and Christ that we are not reporting on the state of the light summer as far as crowds and disturbing criminal aspects associated with it in June would be either to admit culpability on some front or to simply discredit the critics’ point as extreme and not worthy of consideration.

We choose to defend and explain how we see it (for the second time on this page.) It’s a well-known fact this has been a unique summer for all the wrong reasons thus far. However, it’s not over yet either. Therefore, that’s why you are not going to see huge stories on why business is down each week in Ocean City. We are not going to write the story in the middle of the game.

Sure, there is truth to the fact Ocean City in some respects has become a “weekend” resort, raising questions of whether the resort has priced itself out of the destination market and if more should be done to lure weekday travelers with special rates. Safety concerns during June deserve a lot of consideration in the fall, and we are interested to see what the town’s new police chief will bring to the table with his fresh perspective.

There are many concerns facing Ocean City, but there are also loads of positives. We report on both each week. Every major crime gets reported. While most businesses reported successful 4th of July weekends, we reported demoflush estimates revealed crowds were down from the year before. We have reported the fact crowd figures have been below last year throughout 2013.

We also have reported on recent high rankings for the gorgeous and clean beaches in Ocean City. We also highlight through photos the most pristine and fascinating vistas that can be found anywhere. We report on beloved family activities as well as the hot fishing offshore.

Our view is now is not the time to be negative and sensationalize when it’s not appropriate. There are legitimate concerns about Ocean City’s viability and reputation. They are valid and the town will need to craft some measures to reintroduce the prides of Ocean City to counterbalance some negative aspects that have grabbed headlines as well as social media attention. Clearly, the beginning work lies in redefining the town’s marketing effort and cementing a collaborative approach among the private and public stakeholders.

What’s unfortunate in the matter at hand this week is the critics make it sound like the local media is not reporting on any negative aspects of the resort area. There are hundreds of inches of stories in print and on the Internet over the last two months to prove otherwise.

Interestingly enough other folks have expressed in recent weeks that this newspaper reports on too many negative aspects of the community and blows out of proportion crime incidents when they occur.

We believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. That’s acceptable to us.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.